Karen Black, the Oscar nominated star of Five Easy Pieces, has turned to her fans to raise money to pay for cancer treatment after spending her life savings battling the disease.
Black’s husband Stephen Eckelberry turned to the money-raising website site GoFundMe to seek $32,000 to cover the costs of the actress’s treatment, which he called “her best and only shot”.
Film projects are frequently funded with donations from the public via websites such as Kickstarter. Funding for those seeking medical help is less common, although the phenomenon is on the rise.
Eckelberry wrote: “If you’ve ever enjoyed her work, now is your chance to reach back to Karen – because Karen needs your help.”
Fans of the actress responded in their hundreds, ultimately beating the target to raise $45,829 by yesterday afternoon, with more donations coming in.
Gofundme has been increasingly used for medical purposes, raising $6m for medical causes last year, making up 17 per cent of the site’s total donations. Other sites including GiveForward and YouCaring have also sprung up.
Black was diagnosed with ampullary cancer in November 2010, although until now she had not talked about it publicly.
Shortly after, she had to undergo an operation to remove a third of her pancreas before extensive chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Despite seemingly overcoming the disease in July 2011 it returned and in June last year began to spread.
Her doctor recommended a treatment in Europe which targets her form of cancer. “Karen needs to go in the next few weeks, otherwise she may be too weak to go at all,” Eckelberry said.
The money raised will cover travel, living and treatment expenses for two months. Some questioned why a relatively successful actress would need to turn to her fans in such a case.
Eckelberry said: “Most of the high-paying work dwindled out many years ago. She has a modest pension and medical insurance (thank goodness) but as anyone knows who has fought cancer, that is not enough.”
Black, 73, has worked consistently since the late 1960s, including the recently completed She Loves Me Not. Her most famous film role came opposite Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces in 1970.